February 20, 2007

No Studies? Look at adoption

Sometimes people will make the argument that there are no studies to show that genes really matter to children. They will say that it's love that really matters. If the children have love from two responsible adults, they will be just fine, even if these adults are biological strangers. The children won't miss their biological parents, because these are just "gene donors," not "real" parents.

There are studies that have been done on a very similar situation. I am coming to realize that studies done on open and closed adoption are probably the closest parallel to the donor gamete situation. This is something that others have already known for a while. The blog "Adoption Agencies Exploit People" specifically makes this connection. Also, "son of a surrogate" explains on his blog how he identifies closely with his friend who was an adoptee.

Often, the adopted children and the children of egg or sperm donors seem to tackle very similar issues. These children often have a truckload of "love" - they are very wanted and basically spoiled rotten by their infertile "social" parents who longed for them so much. And yet, these children often feel a deep void in their heart. They long for a connection to their real, biological parents.

Why do these "superloved" children care about their biological parents? It's weird, isn't it. Isn't love enough? Well, perhaps it is only human to care about that primal bond between us and the people who gave us our bodies and often also pieces of our personalities. Who among us would NOT care to know where they came from?

Indeed, in the converse, the parents also OUGHT to care about their biological children - and society has ALWAYS recgnized this until modern times, by making parents responsible for their biological children even when they don't want to be (look at child support payments). We know there is something NATURAL and FUNDAMENTAL about the biological bond that cannot be erased in any way between parents and children, and BOTH sides of that equation naturally do care - and OUGHT to care - about this bond.

So adoption and donor conception are similar. However, they are also very different in a way that makes donor conception a lot morally WORSE than adoption. Adoption is fundametally a good thing, because (and when) it is primarily focused on the CHILD. It is an instrument for fixing a problem. Where the natural parents cannot care for their child. The child was not originally conceived in order to be given up, but once it is born, its natural parents cannot care for it. Adoption offers that child a life outside of an orphanage. it gives that child love where that child would otherwise NOT get love.

On the other hand, donor conception INTENTIONALLY creates a child that will be robbed of one or more biological parents. The biological parents often would be perfectly capable of caring for that child, but they arbitrarily decide that this child won't be "theirs" - they make it a "gift" to infertile strangers. The child has no choice in the matter. In effect, this child is given up for adoption even BEFORE it is conceived. It is robbed of its biological parents without any necessity. The focus is clearly not on the child but on the desires of the parents.

This is why I do not share the view that some blogs seem to have (such as "Adoption Agencies Expoloit People"), that adoption is equally bad. However, it may well be true that young pregnant women are being expoited today and are being pressured into giving their children up for adoption in order to feed the humongous, hungry and wealthy baby trade. This is a great injustice. It is also very sad because it gives adoption a bad name. Adoption should always be a true last resort where the natural parents are truly unable to care for their child, and it should be as open as possible.

As further proof of the similarity of adoption and donor conception view this recent letter to the editor, printed in the New York Times:
New York Times
February 20, 2007
They Are Linked by Their Genes (1 Letter)

To the Editor:

Re "Sperm Donor Father Ends His Anonymity" (news article, Feb. 14):

I was happy to read about Jeffrey Harrison, a sperm donor who had the
compassion, sense and ethics to write to the teenagers who share his
genes, and who were looking for him.

As an older adoptee, I understand the teenagers' desires to know whom
they resemble. This natural interest should be honored by changes to
policies governing assisted reproduction as well as adoption.

When I researched the origins of policies sealing adoption records,
which go back to the 1930s, I found that some adoption agencies
preferred keeping participants apart, despite their awareness that
adoptees would want to know about their birth parents.

Similarly, most sperm banks keep people like Mr. Harrison and his
children apart, rather than address the needs of the very people they
help conceive.

Janine Baer
El Cerrito, Calif., Feb. 14, 2007
The writer is a member of an adoptee rights organization.

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